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Posts tagged: Farm to School

Local Combines with American Grown

Quickly assembling tortilla wraps for hungry students is a hard job. I learned this first hand recently at Stone Spring Elementary in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Mary Lou, Ott and Jean, the cafeteria staff responsible for preparing and serving school meals every day, took control of the kitchen, quickly assembling 300 turkey wraps while I clumsily tried to keep up.

But while I found the prep work to be challenging, I learned that products from USDA, such as the lean turkey in the wraps, make it easier for schools to buy local foods. USDA purchases over $1 billion of food from American farmers for school meal programs every year. Known as USDA Foods, these American grown products include fruits, vegetables, dairy, whole grains, lean meats and poultry. Read more »

Produce Safety University: Supporting a Healthier Next Generation through School Food Safety!

PSU students interact with a local farmer during one of the program’s field trips.

PSU students interact with a local farmer during one of the program’s field trips.

Nothing is more important than the health and well-being of our children.  To reinforce that value, USDA is constantly working to ensure that kids are only being served safe, high quality meals.   That’s why we launched Produce Safety University (PSU) in 2010, to address the food safety issues related to fresh produce, particularly as it pertains to school food service.

A joint venture between USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service and the Agricultural Marketing Service, PSU conducts five week-long classes each year to instruct school nutrition professionals and State Agency program directors.  The sessions focus on facts about the produce industry, produce safety, and produce use in school foodservice.  Last week we wrapped up our first session of 2014, at this highly informative event in Fredericksburg, Va. Read more »

Farm to School Grants Offer New Opportunities to Serve Healthy Local Foods in School Meals

On March 7, 2014, students at J.C. Nalle Elementary School sampled three different kinds of spinach. After the taste test, they cast their vote to decide which type they like best. The winner? Spinach salad! (Photo courtesy of D.C. Central Kitchen)

On March 7, 2014, students at J.C. Nalle Elementary School sampled three different kinds of spinach. After the taste test, they cast their vote to decide which type they like best. The winner? Spinach salad! (Photo courtesy of D.C. Central Kitchen)

It’s not every day that I get the opportunity to hang out with a group of cool elementary school students.  Which is why I was so excited for the chance to spend a few hours at J.C. Nalle Elementary School in Southeast Washington, D.C. You see, it was “Fresh Feature Friday” and D.C. Central Kitchen was coordinating a taste test to see which type of spinach the students like best. “Fresh Feature Friday” is their way of getting kids to try healthy new foods while improving student nutrition and decreasing school food waste.

D.C. Central kitchen manages the school meals program at J.C. Nalle and has been involved with serving healthy school meals for years. In fact, in 2013, the USDA Farm to School Program awarded funds to D.C. Central Kitchen to develop a year round farm to school program. The funds helped purchase school kitchen equipment to process and serve local foods, train staff to prepare school meals using local foods, and develop key partnerships with D.C. Public Schools, the D.C. Farm to School Network, and several regional farms in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Growing Opportunity for Small and Mid-Sized Farmers and Ranchers

The recent Census of Agriculture shows that there is tremendous potential for growth among the smaller producers that make up the middle of American agriculture, but they need our support to get there.

That can mean a lot of different things. Some small and mid-sized farms and ranches are happy just the way they are, and simply need stability to help them keep afloat during tough times. Others want to grow and expand, but don’t know how to access support that meets their specific needs.

Recognizing these challenges, we have launched a new package of education, credit, technical assistance, and marketing tools and resources geared specifically to small and mid-sized farmers and ranchers. Read more »

USDA Helps Farmers Make Creative Connection with Students

Farmer, David Sours, poses for the Public House Produce Farmer Trading Card. The back of the card showcases all sorts of facts about Sours’ operation.

Farmer, David Sours, poses for the Public House Produce Farmer Trading Card. The back of the card showcases all sorts of facts about Sours’ operation.

Remember when you were a child and kids would sit around memorizing baseball stats and trading cards or perhaps you’re a bit younger and the big thing was trading Pokémon cards? Well, I’m predicting the next big thing will be Farmer Trading Cards!

In November, I attended the Virginia Farm to Table Conference and on the first day David Sours, a farmer from Luray, VA shyly handed me what I thought was a business card until I took a closer look. In fact, it was a Farmer Trading Card featuring David himself! The card also lists Farmer Stats including contact information, months in operation, farm size, where to buy, and most importantly, type of tractor. Read more »

High Tunnel Initiative Brings Local Foods to Detroit

Malik Yakini, Executive Director of the Detroit Black Community Security Network and Manager of D-Town Farms; U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow; NRCS State Conservationist Garry Lee; Southeast Michigan Resource Conservation & Development Council Board President Morse Brown and Ashley Akinson, Executive Director of Keep Growing Detroit (l-r) were together at Detroit’s Eastern Market to announce new funding for city high-tunnels. Photo by Brian Buehler, Public Affairs Specialist, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Michigan

Malik Yakini, Executive Director of the Detroit Black Community Security Network and Manager of D-Town Farms; U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow; NRCS State Conservationist Garry Lee; Southeast Michigan Resource Conservation & Development Council Board President Morse Brown and Ashley Akinson, Executive Director of Keep Growing Detroit (l-r) were together at Detroit’s Eastern Market to announce new funding for city high-tunnels. Photo by Brian Buehler, Public Affairs Specialist, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Michigan

On a cold winter day last week, U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan and Garry Lee, Michigan State Conservationist from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), visited Detroit’s Eastern Market. They were joined by Malik Yakini, Executive Director of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network, Ashley Atkinson, Co-Director of Keep Growing Detroit and Morse Brown, Board President of the Southeast Michigan Resource Conservation and Development Council. Despite the freezing temperatures that will make growing food a challenge for another few months, Garry and the Senator were there to discuss new support for the Detroit-Wayne County Seasonal High Tunnel Education Initiative (SHEI) which will bring new high tunnels – greenhouse-like structures also known as hoop houses – to Detroit’s urban farmers.

Funded by USDA and managed by local organizations, SHEI will train Detroit’s urban growers to install, operate and manage seasonal high tunnels that will conserve natural resources, improve productivity and help them be profitable year round. Easy to build and use, high tunnels were first supported by USDA as a conservation practice in 2010. Since that time, USDA has funded nearly 10,000 across the country. Along with other benefits, high tunnels are providing farmers from Alaska to Baltimore with tools to extend their growing season and provide their communities with fresh, locally-grown produce later into the year. Read more »